MP Chrystia Freeland gets to work

‘Focused’ Liberals staved off threat by NDP to hold onto riding in byelection

Less than a week after staving off a spirited challenge by the NDP and holding Toronto Centre for the Liberal party, new MP Chrystia Freeland was mapping out a new strategy — planning how she will put her platform in place.

Constituency work came early.

She was at Summerhill subway station with her journalist husband Graham Bowley only hours after claiming 49.1 percent of the
vote to win one of four federal byelections held Nov. 25. Then came the task of setting up offices in both Toronto Centre and Ottawa, where 24 hours later she would begin her first day as an elected member of the Liberal caucus.

By week’s end she was ready to begin pursuit of issues “specific to the people of Toronto Centre,” she told the Town Crier.

Based on concerns heard on the campaign trail, they include transit, housing, immigration and infrastructure, she said, but cautioned that “it’s not something that can be reduced to a bumper sticker or a sound byte, and it’s not something that’s going to be figured out in 24 hours.”

Freeland defeated NDP challenger Linda McQuaig in a fiercely contested and sometimes contentious battle between two former
journalists. McQuaig’s share was 36.4 percent of the vote, while Conservative Geoff Pollock was a distant third, with 8.7 percent. The Liberals won here and in Quebec while the Conservatives took two Manitoba races.

Freeland replaces former Liberal MP and interim party leader Bob Rae, who vacated his seat in the summer to represent a Native group in talks with the Ontario government.

Rae stood at her side during the speech, as did his predecessor, Bill Graham, who was MP from 1993 to 2007.

Graham said later that, despite some Liberals being nervous about her being nominated at the outset, Freeland turned out to be “a wonderful candidate” who is well respected locally.

“She’s a really legitimate successor to myself and Bob Rae,” he said. “She’s very smart and she’s curious.

“She’ll respond well to what our needs are here (in the riding).”

Freeland had said weeks ago she believed the voter turnout in this byelection would be higher than what byelections usually get.

While 38 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot on Nov. 25 in Toronto Centre, it is a vast improvement from the byelection five years ago, when just under 28 percent voted.

Freeland also built on the Liberals’ numbers from the last election, where they managed 41 percent.

The NDP also gained, going from 30 to 36 percent, but the Conservatives took a significant hit, falling from 22 percent two years ago.

The Green Party finished fourth with 3 percent, and the PC Party in fifth was the only other to land above 1 percent, at 1.3, while six others finished behind.

Independent candidate Kevin Clarke, who in August had predicted he would be a shoo-in to replace Rae, finished in seventh place with 89 votes.

As a journalist, Freeland became well known for her criticisms of government handling of the global economy. Her primary motivation for entering politics, she said, was to find a way for the Canadian middle class to thrive in the 21st-century economy.

“I campaigned on that issue, saying, ‘This is what I’m going to focus on. Elect me and I will work on it from first thing in the morning to last thing at night,’” she said. “And that’s what I’m doing.”

About this article:

By: Shawn Star and Eric Emin Wood
Posted: Dec 6 2013 8:27 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto